Before I was a parent, I scoffed at kids’ menus in cool restaurants. Why expect kids’ options when families could just go to—I don’t know—Shari’s?
Well, I am the first to admit that most of the things I thought about parenting, before I was one, were wrong. For my family, finding a place that has good food and drinks for adults as well as a kids’ menu grilled cheese with french fries is one of our true joys.
Grilled cheese and french fries is the perfect dining-out kid dinner option for many reasons: At its most basic, it is in the tan-to-light brown food color family that kids demand. Also important: Grilled cheese sandwiches are generally not served at molten-lava temperatures, unlike fish sticks or chicken strips.
Have you ever tried explaining to a wily child that—although they are hungry and have food in front of them—they may not touch their food yet because it’s too hot? Doesn’t work.
Grilled cheese and fries have worked their way symbiotically into my life because now most of my dining-out meals consist of a fancy salad, two cocktails, approximately five french fries, and the crust of a grilled-cheese sandwich—served in an environment where my kid will feel welcome but I can still feel like a human woman. Friends, parents and friends of parents, I would like to share with you my five favorite places that meet this specific criterion.
5325 E Burnside St., 503-208-3544, tabortavern.com. 11:30 am-9:30 pm Sunday-Thursday, 11:30 am-10 pm Friday-Saturday.
This casual, bustling neighborhood joint always miraculously has at least one table available whenever we roll up. Its adult menu is exceptional pub grub: a perfect beet salad (with quinoa and pepitas) and a fried chicken sando that my partner orders every time and will not shut up about. It also has a small kids’ menu, which includes the coveted grilled cheese and fries for $7. Hell yes! Tabor Tavern is perfect for cool families, although a passerby would hardly even know it, which is the ideal aesthetic.
8115 SE Stark St., 503-445-6284, theobservatorypdx.com. 11 am-11 pm daily.
I didn’t even know you could take kids to the Observatory, until I had one. It turns out it even has crayons. And guess what else it has? Cocktails, salads and all sorts of other fancy bar foods—including a truly excellent cheese board, aka grown-up snack plates—and the crucial grilled cheese with fries. Bonus points: The Observatory turns out food and drinks pretty quickly, which is perfect because dinner with a child is ideally chill but never leisurely.
Multiple locations, killerburger.com.
My daughter went through a phase where she would request a cheeseburger but then refuse to eat it when it arrived because she didn’t like the hamburger part. Eventually, we figured out that, to her, “cheeseburger” meant “melted cheese on a hamburger bun.” And guess what—Killer Burger serves precisely this sandwich for children! Thank you, Killer Burger, for offering gigantic, decked-out burgers for adults and also for not making me order a “normal burger, hold everything but the cheese” for my child. Six dollars gets you that and fries!
Laurelwood Brew Pub
5115 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-282-0622, laurelwoodbrewpub.com. 11 am-9 pm Thursday-Saturday, 11 am-9 pm Sunday-Wednesday.
Laurelwood’s kid-friendly ways aren’t a secret, by any means, but I must include it. It really does know what it’s doing, and it does it well! In the Venn diagram of “for families” and “for grown-ups,” Laurelwood is the place with the biggest overlapping middle part. It has a legit, pagelong kids’ menu—though clearly I can forget about all of it, aside from that essential GC&F. It also possesses a spaciously arranged dining room with plenty of room to give families like mine a wide berth. While obviously my child is polite and delightful, I do understand that not everybody “likes” “children.”
2828 NE Glisan St., 503-206-5221, migrationbrewing.com. 11 am-10 pm daily.
The upside of Migration Brewing is its award-winning beers. The downside is that you have to order at a counter, which doesn’t always work with a kid. However, so long as you go with another adult who can pin down the little one(s) while one grownup is ordering at the counter, Migration is delightful as all get out. Note: The kids’ grilled cheese here actually comes with tortilla chips instead of fries. No biggie—I am fine eating five of those, too.
Epilogue: Over the course of my researching this piece, my daughter decided she no longer likes grilled cheese sandwiches.